The Detroit Auto Show is roaring back to relevance, with car manufacturers from around the globe gearing up to unveil exciting new concepts and production vehicles. For several years, the worldwide economic slump had taken the luster off Detroit, not to mention many other auto shows. Yet the atmosphere of this year's show already looks to be downright optimistic. Everything from wildly powerful sport coupes to clever and fuel-conscious compacts will be vying for attention here in the Motor City.
Lexus LF-LC concept
Lexus wants to get into the business of building cars with passion. The Japanese luxury brand has long been associated with high quality and its dominance of owner satisfaction surveys. Yet as other brands inject their lineups with dramatic styling and sport-themed models, it was only a matter of time before Lexus had to take notice. Enter the LF-LC Concept, a new 2+2 hybrid-powered coupe set to redefine Lexus' future design language. The front of LF-LC incorporates elements of the Lexus spindle grille, a feature seen on the new 2013 GS sedan. The LF-LC also borrows a lot of the design found in the brand's $375,000 LFA supercar.
2013 Mercedes-Benz SL
Now in its sixth generation, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL roadster has always been about class, performance and distinction. And just in time for a New Year's resolution, this 2-passenger Mercedes drop-top has now managed to shed some pesky extra pounds – the SL's aluminum chassis weighs approximately 300 lbs. less than the equivalent structure made of steel. Don't worry; an engineering degree isn't necessary to appreciate the extra power of this luxury-laden Merc. The twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V-8 and 7-speed automatic transmission hustle the new SL550 to 60 mph in only 4.5 seconds. As an added bonus, the SL's weight loss should also boost fuel economy.
Acura NSX Concept
This is the sports car that automotive enthusiasts – and probably a legion of Acura engineers – longed to see built for years. The original NSX, produced from 1990 to 2005, managed to combine supercar styling, razor-sharp handling and rock-solid dependability. The Acura NSX Concept shown in Detroit has the taut lines of a 2-passenger mid-engine sports car – large front air intakes and swoopy fenders are pretty much a given in this market segment. Where the NSX breaks new ground is with its all-wheel-drive hybrid powertrain, including an electrically driven front axle and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. High performance and enhanced mpg look to be the themes of the next-gen NSX.
2012 Mini Roadster
Like the recently introduced Mini Coupe, the 2012 Mini Roadster eliminates a rear seat and adopts a lower, sleeker roofline. In the case of the Roadster, the roof is a manually operated soft-top. Mini has installed a reinforced windshield and twin stainless steel rollover bars for extra chassis rigidity and safety. There will be three performance levels on offer, starting with the 121-bhp 1.6-liter inline-4 in the base model. The mid-level Mini Cooper Roadster S serves up 181 bhp, thanks to turbocharging. But the most rapid Roadster will be the Mini John Cooper Works model with its turbocharged 208-bhp 1.6-liter. The JCW comes only with the 6-speed manual gearbox, though a 6-speed automatic is offered in the other models.
2013 Cadillac ATS
Cadillac is finally getting serious about building a small sedan to compete with the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4. The 2013 Cadillac ATS will offer a pair of 4-cylinder engines, along with a range topping 3.6-liter V-6 set to deliver more than 300 bhp. It could be the mid-range turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that has the most appeal for luxury buyers interested in power and practicality. Angular styling, including a bold front grille and vertical taillights, should give the ATS a distinctive exterior to help separate it from other entry-level luxury sedans.
2012 Bentley Continental GT V8
Welcome to the new kinder, gentler and eco-friendlier face of Bentley Motors. The 2012 Bentley Continental GT V8 is the brand's latest entry-level model and, yes, fuel economy was given some consideration in this ultra luxurious sports machine. Thanks to cylinder deactivation technology, it's now possible to achieve more than 20 mpg during highway cruising – not exactly Toyota Prius territory, but a vast improvement versus the turbo W-12 engine. This new 500-bhp 4.0-liter still endows the Conti with a 180--mph top speed and sub-5-second sprint from 0 to 60 mph. Driving range is a continent-crushing (forgive the pun) 500 miles.
2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Hyundai appears to be aiming directly at the Nissan 370Z and upcoming Scion FR-S sports cars with the latest version of the Genesis Coupe. The new model has a totally revised front fascia that shares much of its design with the recently introduced 3-door Veloster. The grille is much larger than before and imparts a more dynamic feel to the entire car. Underhood choices are two revised, more powerful engines: a 3.8-liter direct-injected V-6 and a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4. The V-6 now offers 345 bhp, while the turbo-4 generates 271 bhp. This rear-wheel-drive sports coupe has always offered plenty of value. Now it dishes up more smoky burnout excitement.
2013 Dodge Dart
It's now or never for the Dodge brand, at least when it comes to delivering on its promise of building a small car to take on the segment's best. Available as a sedan or 5-door hatchback, the Dart certainly has sleek exterior – the slanted front headlights and tidy Dodge cross-hair grille are especially nice. The European look to the design is no surprise, considering the Dart is based on a lengthened and widened version of the platform that underpins the Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatchback. Engine choices will include two "Tigershark" 4-cylinders displacing 2.0 and 2.4 liters, while the turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir inline-4 should be the economy champ of the range. Three transmissions will be offered, including a highly anticipated 9-speed automatic.
2013 Ford Fusion
The Ford Fusion is due a major overhaul as it moves to a new platform and adopts the design language of the current Focus and 2013 Taurus. A solid stance and elegant profile are keys to this makeover – Ford refers to this as "Kinetic" design. Ford's EcoBoost range of engines will feature prominently in the new Fusion. Thanks to direct injection and turbocharging, these engines offer plenty of power while returning strong fuel mileage. A hybrid model will also continue in the Fusion lineup.
2013 Chevy Sonic RS
The Chevrolet Sonic is getting pumped up for the Detroit show, courtesy of the performance-themed RS model. Set to go on sale later this year, the Sonic RS is powered by the already available 138-bhp turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder. Smooth and with plenty of torque, the 1.4-liter also delivers 35 mpg during highway cruising. Available only as a 5-door hatchback, the RS has a more aggressive front and rear fascia, a rear spoiler, twin exhaust outlets and 17-in. 5-spoke alloy wheels. You wouldn't mistake the appearance or performance for a Camaro's. However, the Sonic RS looks to provide a solid blend of style, performance and economy.